Consumers should not pay more for debit card purchases

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Consumers are advised to be wary of businesses that charge additional fees for debit card purchases (Photo courtesy CIBC First Caribbean website)
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By Robert A. Emmanuel

[email protected]

With the Christmas season fast approaching and consumers eager to do festive shopping, using debit cards may come with hidden costs businesses have been passing on to consumers—despite it being illegal to do so.

Yesterday on the Observer AM show, the Prices and Consumers Affairs Division warned businesses against passing on additional fees to consumers when purchasing goods using their debit cards.

The government department issued an advisory indicating that it is an illegal act for businesses to pass on those fees to consumers.

Press Officer for the Division, Joanne Peters, said the government department has partnered with the Antigua and Barbuda Bankers’ Association (ABBA) on a public awareness drive following numerous complaints from customers.

“Some consumers are not aware or been told that the fee should not be paid by them and in the past, some consumers have been paying the fee unaware of it and so we need to educate consumers,” she said.

In many countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, many businesses require a minimum purchase cost for debit card transactions due to the transaction fees.

ABBA Representative and Digital Banking Officer for CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, Michella Benjamin, explained that those transaction fees should be paid by retailers themselves.

“Once a merchant signs up for a merchant service with their individual financial institutions, they would have been made aware of the rules and regulations that apply,” she said.

Benjamin noted that ABBA released a statement indicating to persons that a merchant must not apply any additional charge to consumers.

Benjamin added that consumers should review receipts given by businesses and check the total on the debit or credit card machines before they enter their pins or swipe the cards.

“Just the [point-of-sale] terminal and see if the item is at the same price as you expected it; if it is not, you have that right to say no… if the merchant continues, write to [the Prices and Consumers Affairs] with a complaint,” Benjamin stated.

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